I have been looking forward to SEGA’s Valkyria Chronicles 4 for a long time. I really loved the first game when I played it on the PlayStation 3 years ago. The gameplay was just something unique and refreshing, mixing action and strategy with turn-based RPG elements, and it was amazing how those elements meshed well with each other. Which is why I was so disappointed with Valkyria Revolution, which dumped the entire gameplay elements that made the first game for a more traditional hack-and-slash beat-em-up style. Valkyria Chronicles 4 was the series return to form and, after playing and beating it, it’s like coming home again, albeit not the homecoming high you expected it to be.
Valkyria Chronicles 4 takes place during an alternative timeline called the Second Europa War, which is the exact timeframe of the first game. This time, you’re placed in the boots of Claude Wallace, the commander of Squad E. His squad is a part of Operation Northern Cross, a campaign made by the Atlantic Federation to capture the Imperial capital and, thus, ending the war. His commanding skills will be put to the test as he and Squad E push through enemy lines and face off against more vicious opponents, even a Valkyria, a legendary being with extraordinary powers.
The first thing I have to comment on are the graphics and overall presentation of Valkyria Chronicles 4. I will admit that I feel slightly disappointed that the game looks pretty much the same as the first game. I actually got the remastered version of the first Valkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation and, graphic-wise, it’s looks virtually the same. The cel-shaded textures do look slightly better in the new game but you kind of have to squint to really notice the difference. This is precisely why I got the Nintendo Switch version; I didn’t really see the need to get the game on a big-screen TV since there won’t be a noticeable difference in resolution anyway.
That’s not to say that the game looks terrible. I still say it’s rather gorgeous and crisp. SEGA did a fine job with the graphics engine, making the entire game look like a painting come to life, and it seems like they didn’t bother to re-invent the wheel. I mean, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! But there is a “sameness” that permeates in everything, which is a minor let down. The menus and even the way you navigate through the story is practically the same as with the first game. Once again, it’s not bad as the first game’s interface was already really good, but a little spice or even a few additional options would have been appreciated.
There is one major thing they added to Valkyria Chronicles 4. Apart from the scouts, lancers, shocktroopers, engineers and snipers from the first game, SEGA added the grenadier class. This new unit can launch mortar rounds at a distance and, well, they kind of break the game during the early stages. Since they basically fire off surface-to-ground missiles, they can wipe out opponents from a distance with a well aimed airstrike. This goes both ways as the Imperials also have grenadiers on their side! This does make navigating the map much more exciting as you can’t really sit still while moving units and, if you’re in the line of sight of the enemy when it’s their turn, prepare to sit helpless as their grenadiers bombard them from the sky!
Another addition to the game’s combat are the new Ship Orders. Unlike the regular orders, which gives your units various buffs, Ship Orders are more active orders as you can request for an aerial bombardment of an area, scan for hidden enemies and the like. While they may be helpful in some situations, I usually forgot they were there. Basically, the grenadiers are a great addition but the Ship Orders aren’t.
Even with the new grenadier class, scout units still feel generally overpowered here as they can zip around the map further than anyone. I do think they tried to do some additional balancing this time as lancers seem to be able to take more hits now… but they’re still generally useless unless you need someone to take out a tank. Then again, you can use a grenadier with a mortar that’s built for anti-armor units, making lancers feel even more useless. You’ll still want to have at least one of them deployed for most missions but any more feels like a waste.
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed most of the missions from the first game, there does seem to be an imbalance in the general difficulty in Valkyria Chronicles 4. The first few missions feel like a cakewalk as I was able to get an A rank in them on my first try with no problem. Then, after sufficiently stroking my ego, the game would then spank me with a spike in difficulty and incredibly tough enemy units with pinpoint accuracy while my units would get hit with the nerf stick as they would flub close range attacks! You can call this bad luck and you can say this is realistic in a way. But I call it unfair.
Still, the missions themselves are interesting for the most part. There’s a good variety between them. Sometimes, you may just be tasked to capture all of the enemy camps or eliminate all of the enemy’s units on the field. Other times, you’ll be tasked to identify fake tanks, shoot at banners to instruct your artillery units to bombard specific areas or even just locate a specific warehouse in enemy territory to get supplies. There are even a few curveballs during the missions that they don’t inform you during the briefing. There was one mission where you cannot call for a medical evacuation for downed units as a sniper is shooting at them, which means you have to use your engineers to revive them until you take out the sniper. Those are really good and makes tackling something that should’v been a one-of-the-mill mission much more refreshing.
The overall story in Valkyria Chronicles 4 is, well, not all that great. A part of the problem is Operation Northern Cross and the plan to occupy the Imperial capital. It’s a good idea but this makes the entire structure rather stiff. They do have a major twist during the middle of the story, which would’ve been good but it was poorly implemented. I just wasn’t into the story all that much. Then again, maybe I just wasn’t into the story because the characters feel rather bland, especially when compared to the characters from Valkyria Chronicles. I’m not even complaining that most of them are anime stereotypes. I actually came in the game expecting anime stereotypes that would feel so inappropriate for Western audiences but still okay in Japan! Jan Walker from Valkyria Chronicles 1, anyone?
My big issue with the cast are actually the main characters. I never really had an affinity for them like with the ones from the first game. Claude Wallace, the commander of Squad E, has the ability to read the weather and he usually plans his ops based on that. It’s a neat gimmick but that just means he’s lucky that the weather happens to be a certain way than really being strategic about it. While the heroes are not that great, it’s the antagonists that are bad as they’re just not interesting at all. The main villain especially comes off as very boring and not at all menacing. There are also a couple of romance subplots that don’t develop naturally and feel rushed because it’s an anime stereotype game.
Oddly enough, while the main characters come off as rather bland, it’s the rest of Squad E that gets more personality! This is in part to the addition of Squad Stories that pop up once you use a unit several times. You then get a side story involving them, which is a really nice touch. As much as I like Jan from the first game, you don’t really know much about him besides his “amusing” personality. Valkyria Chronicles 4 gives you the opportunity to get to know them as well as their backstories. They don’t steal the show but injects a little more personality into what would’ve been a bland story.
Overall, I really like Valkyria Chronicles 4 and I do highly recommend the game. If this if your first game in the series, the battle system does take some getting used to but it’s extremely fun when you do. It’s not as good as the very excellent Valkyria Chronicles 1 but it’s close enough!
Oh, and if you want to get the first game, it’s actually available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. I say get them both!
Have you played Valkyria Chronicles 4? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!